During the month of March we’re taking a look at each of the generations in the workplace in our Generational Gap Series. Find out what characteristics are typical of each generation and the most effective way to manage them.
Over the next four weeks we’ll cover four installments:
- Baby Boomers in the Workplace
- Generation X in the Workplace
- Generation Y in the Workplace
- Managing Different Generations and the entry of Generation Z
Behind the lens this week is the largest generation: Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers (Born 1946 – 1964)
Now in their late 40s to 60s, this sizeable generation is beginning to retire and businesses are grappling with a growing ‘knowledge gap’ and ageing workforce. Baby Boomers make up the majority of senior management positions and their departure means a wealth of experience and knowledge is also leaving. Businesses should be concerned with enticing Boomers to stay in the workforce, as well as encouraging them to become mentors to help close the ‘knowledge gap’.
While these characteristics are broad stereotypes the common demographic, economic and social trends each generation shares influenced their formative years.
So what are the broad characteristics of Baby Boomers?
- Extremely hardworking and motivated by position, perks and prestige
- First generation of “workaholics” who view work as a path to success rather than the ‘right thing to do’
- Believe the other generations should pay their dues
- They may see younger generations as lacking of work ethic/commitment
- First to reject traditional values after growing up during Civil Rights Movement and other social movements
- Confident, independent and self-reliant
- Achievement-oriented and welcome exciting, challenging projects
- Grew up with increased educational and financial opportunities
- Many are open to learning new skills even as they near retirement age
- Equate work and position with self-worth and enjoy competing in the workplace
- Believe in hierarchal structure and rankism
- Boomers believe in “face time” and may oppose working remotely
Managing Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers have a bad reputation for being expensive, out of touch and resistant to change. However, they are actually more open minded than they get credit for and may just need longer to get used to new ideas or processes. In fact, with the economic downturn, many Boomers are expected to delay retirement and show a desire to keep their skill set up-to-date.
Here are a few tips on working with/managing Baby Boomers:
- Don’t be pushy
- Follow their lead
- Boomers value tradition and would expect others to respect tradition or established ways of doing things
- Show you are serious and focused
- Show you have a process and structure
- Boomers prefer communicating face-to-face or over the phone
- Prove you are hard-working and loyal
- Boomers expect younger generations to pay their dues as they themselves tend to be workaholics and spend many years at one company
Acknowledge and Praise
- Respect and acknowledge their experience and expertise
- Approach them to be mentors to share that expertise
- Boomers may be motivated by titles, promotions, acknowledgement and opportunities for leadership and coaching
- They may also value opportunities to update and learn new skills – but at their own pace
The challenge for businesses with Baby Boomer workers is to keep them engaged and feeling valued, while at the same time moving forward, passing on that expertise and accommodating the younger generations. Gen Y in particular is significantly different to Baby Boomers in their views of the workplace and workstyles.
Is your workplace experiencing a ‘knowledge gap’? Have you implemented new initiatives to keep Baby Boomers engaged and passing on expertise? Let us know in the comments below.